Today’s constantly-evolving automotive landscape leads to interesting and unique vehicles being unveiled to the public at a rapid pace. These different models challenge vehicle designers (and consumers) to think outside the box. However, with sports cars becoming an increasingly niche market, a lot of this innovation at large automotive makers has mostly been applied to cross-overs, SUVs, and large trucks.
With the roads now dominated by vehicles that seat six-plus individuals, automotive purists are often left desiring something more, reminiscing about a time when manufacturers put their attention towards form as opposed to function, and speed as opposed to safety. In that same vein, then, here are ten iconic and downright cool models that should make a comeback in 2019.
10 Honda S2000
Honda has developed a solid reputation over the course of its existence for producing consistently affordable and reliable automobiles. Its pioneering use of variable valve timing and legendary smooth shifting manual gearboxes have become iconic staples of the sports car world.
While the company still offers and constantly updates the Civic in “Si” and “Type R” trims, the S2000 hasn’t received the same modern-day treatment. Sporting a peppy 237 horsepower four-cylinder engine sending power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, the S2000 was the "unicorn" of the Honda lineup, being its only production vehicle at the time with a rear wheel drive configuration.
9 Volkswagen Scirocco
The Volkswagen Gulf is an unmistakenly iconic vehicle that has transcended time. However, many fail to remember the Golf's sportier, more streamlined little brother. Only sold in the United States from 1975 to 1988, and produced in several inline four-cylinder variants, the Scirocco has never officially been discontinued globally, just in the North American market.
This is due to production restrictions based on U.S. law and a lack of interest in the model compared to the iconic Golf that has remained. However, the Scirocco's production has continued and evolved for modern-day international markets, where the third generation is now sold. This new design language (which basically resembles a lower, more streamlined version of the Golf) maintains its distinction through a sportier stance and engine.
During its six-year production run (2007-2013), the Mazdaspeed3 occupied a significant segment in the compact sports car market. It afforded owners utility thanks to its five-door hatchback design, reliability from its solid Japanese four-cylinder producing 263 horsepower, and agility thanks to numerous upgrades over the base model Mazda3.
Being a car practically designed for the tuner market, its ease of upgrade has led many to expand the capacities of their Mazdaspeed3 far beyond its factory constraints, allowing the model to develop its own cult-like following that still exists today.
7 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Despite the fact that the Cadillac CTS-V model is still offered by the manufacturer today (although soon to be replaced by the new CT5-V) and has even been bolstered further by the subsequent unveiling of a newer ATS-V, there was truly no vehicle on the road at the time like the CTS-V Wagon.
Despite being in production for only four years, it left an undeniable mark on the sports car world. Packed under the hood was the massive and iconic LS V8, producing 556 screaming horsepower force-fed through its massive stock supercharger. Power aside, the body is what made this vehicle unique, as it packed all that punch in a fully functional family station wagon. It was just as comfortable driving to the local supermarket to be filled with groceries as it was laying down ridiculous numbers on a race track.
6 Nissan 240SX
When it comes to the most iconic sports cars to be created by Japanese manufacturers in the latter half of the 20th century, you'd be hard pressed to forgo mentioning the legendary Nissan 240SX. Offered from 1989 to 1999, the 240SX was Nissan's answer to the entry-level sports car.
While the company currently only produces the 370Z and GTR in its sports car division, the 240SX previously occupied the lower tier of the group, allowing buyers a more reasonable price point at which to enter the sports car market. With a four-cylinder sporting roughly 200 horsepower, rear wheel drive configuration, and low curb weight, the 240SX quickly became an iconic vehicle in the worlds of racing and drifting. Today, they (and their parts) command high premiums on the after-market.
5 Dodge Magnum
The Dodge Magnum, like the previously mentioned CTS-V, was an outlier, an odd model that sadly was never given enough time in production to truly shine. Despite producing coupes named the Magnum throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dodge chose to revitalize the model name for the 2004 model year, as a sporty station wagon.
Offered in several engine configurations spanning from a modest V6 with 180 horsepower to a menacing SRT V8 with 425 horsepower, the Magnum effectively had it all. Lower trimmed models were offered with optional all-wheel-drive, while the SRT trim was given special racing treatments as well as a Mercedes Benz-derived transmission. However, despite these facts (and a niche audience that adored the vehicle) it was discontinued.
4 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
The Ford Lightning pick up truck was for the practical-yet-not-practical driver that exists inside of automotive enthusiasts worldwide. From afar, the truck seems like a rather uninspired two-door compact pick-up, but what was occurring under the hood was something far more intense.
Developed by Ford's Special Vehicle Team, the Lightning was powered by a supercharged V8 that produced 360 horsepower, housed the same transmission Ford used in its larger commercial vehicles, and still retained the same towing capacity as its full-fledged F-150 counterpart. Offered from 1993 to 2004, the truck sought to compete with the Chevrolet 454SS and the GMC Cyclone, effectively creating a new submarket for factory modified pick-up trucks.
3 Dodge Viper
When speaking about high-performance American sports cars, the two models that instantly come to mind for most enthusiasts are the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper. While only the former is still available new at dealerships today, the Viper was always the "angry brother" of the pair. Where the Corvette was a refined example of American engineering, the Viper's enticing factor is that it's rough around the edges.
With a one-of-a-kind 645 horsepower V10 engine at the end of its production run, an exhaust note that would wake an entire neighborhood, and a driving experience largely uninhibited by computer interference, the Viper was the last of a virtually dead breed, one that put almost nothing between the driver and the road.
2 Buick Grand National GNX
Arguably the most understated sports car to ever be produced by an American manufacturer, the Buick Grand National GNX was the defining vehicle for the term "sleeper." Based on the Regal platform initially, the Grand National GNX was made for one year, 1987, and was a full-sized coupe developed jointly with McLaren.
One of the greatest mysteries surrounding this car, however, is how Buick underrated the output of the engine. Listing it as only toting 260 horsepower, the legitimate power figure for the car was in excess of 300 horsepower. Many believe that Buick's decision to underrate it came from internal pressure; so as to not release the understated take on a family cruiser as effectively the most powerful car offered in any American manufacturer's line up at the time.
1 Acura Integra Type R
From 1997 to 2001, Acura undertook the task of producing a limited-run model specifically for enthusiasts. Revamping their iconic Integra model just as Honda did with their Civic to give it a special Type R treatment, the vehicle took on an identity wholly its own.
The resulting product was a roughly 200 horsepower front wheel drive coupe, designed to be thrashed about the road and take the beating effortlessly. With only 3,823 examples of this model produced throughout its entire existence, it has become somewhat of a lost gem amongst late 20th-century Japanese sports cars, and the few clean examples that remain command ridiculous after-market values.